The Hidden Dangers of Fragrance

The Hidden Dangers of Fragrance

Did you know your sweet-smelling soap could be making you sick? Or your scented body cream is likely chock full of chemicals? Or your shaving gel could be making your skin condition worse?

By now, many of us have been trained to read the ingredients list on our food, body care and household product labels. (Learn more about that in our “Decoding your ingredients list” blog…) But there is one little word in many ingredient lists that is easy to overlook, despite being one of the ingredients we should be paying the most attention to. 

Fragrance. 

Sounds innocent enough, right? We can all enjoy nice-smelling fragrant things from time to time. But when it comes to fragrance in your skin and personal care products, there’s a big stink. 

Fragrance is an extremely common ingredient found in almost all store-bought skincare and personal care products. Unfortunately, the FDA does not require that companies list the ingredients they use to make the fragrance in their products. This allows companies to preserve their “trade secrets” while using whatever chemicals they see fit. 

Instead, companies can choose to “voluntary disclose” ingredients in their skincare and cosmetics products. “Fragrance” could mean any mix of around 3000 chemicals, including those known to irritate skin and cause rashes as well as respiratory problems, headaches, and allergies. And while some companies will list the ingredients, keeping the proportion a secret, the majority do not. 

🛈 Tip: If fragrance ingredients are listed, you’ll often see words like fragrance, parfum, eugenol, geraniol, citronellol, and limonene.

This voluntary disclosure creates a dangerous loophole that allows companies to put whatever ingredients they want – toxic or not – into the product under the umbrella term “fragrance.” And it’s something we as consumers need to pay attention to. 

The Dangers of Fragrance on Your Health

It’s estimated that 1 percent of the general population suffers from fragrance allergies. That equates to 2.5 million individuals. Fragrance allergy is the number one cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis in the U.S. (Contact dermatitis is the fancy name for a red, itchy rash.) And contact dermatitis is responsible for approximately 5.7 million physician visits a year!

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. Fragrance can cause a lot more harm than just a rash. People who are highly sensitive to the chemicals used in fragrances can suffer even more adverse reactions, including respiratory, neurological and immune system problems. Those with inflammatory skin care conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, acne or rosacea, may see their condition worsen from fragrances. Fragrances are also known as a huge trigger for migraines.  

Even more concerning: A 2018 Women’s Voices for the Earth study found that in the over 3,000 chemicals reportedly used for fragrances, 1,242 were chemicals of concern – and that included at least 7 possible carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, agents.

A similar report by the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners found that fragrance chemicals make up the vast majority of chemicals linked to adverse chronic health effects in the beauty, personal care and cleaning products they tested. 

A Better Solution to Fragrances

While it may feel like you’re at the mercy of the manufacturers, you do have a choice. There’s a growing trend of companies creating products that not only use natural, non-toxic ingredients, but ingredients that also offer therapeutic benefits. 


At Bend Soap Company, we take a lot of pride and care to craft products that are nourishing and safe for all types of skin. When it comes to giving our products an aromatherapeutic boost, we opt for high-quality natural fragrances and essential oils that are often steam-distilled to obtain the highest levels of purity. Essential oils, which are concentrated liquids that contain aromatic compounds from plants, are available in a variety of scents and each offer unique aromatherapeutic properties.

The therapeutic benefits of essential oils:

  • Spearmint can help with relaxation, indigestion, nausea, headaches, pain relief and muscle relaxation. It also nourishes and improves skin texture. 

  • Grapefruit can help to relieve stress, lessen depression, treat oily skin and acne, and relax muscle stiffness and cramps. 

  • Orange can help with inflammation, combat acne and dermatitis, relax muscle spasms, and relieve symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. 

  • Lemon can help to reduce stress, calm anxiety, balance oil glands, strengthen hair, and kill bacteria. It’s also an essential ingredient in anti-aging products!

  • Rosemary can help soothe eczema, dermatitis, oily skin and acne, and strengthen hair. It can also decrease stress hormones and stimulate mental activity and energy.

  • Geranium can help regulate the production of skin oils and balance the production of sebum in the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Lavender can quickly ease stress and anxiety, reduce headaches and encourage good sleep. It is also helpful for healing skin and fighting acne.

  • Tea tree oil, with its antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic qualities, can help fight acne, yeasts and fungi, foster healthy hair, and calm inflammation. 

  • Eucalyptus is a respiratory remedy that can help with fever, flu and sinus infections. It’s also analgesic and anti-inflammatory, as well as a stress reliever. 

  • Lemongrass has anti-inflammatory, astringent and antibacterial properties that can help fight bacterial infections. It can also benefit aging or sagging skin. 

  • Rose is uplifting, mood balancing and anxiety reducing. With antibacterial and antioxidant properties, it also helps protect the skin and fight acne-causing bacteria. 

  • Lime can help ease anxiety and manage pain. It leaves skin bright and balanced, promotes skin rejuvenation and offers a deep clean without dryness.  

  • Clary Sage can be an antidepressant and offers a calming effect. It can also be used to protect against seasonal flu and viruses, and helps with skin infections. 

  • Patchouli can help address dandruff, athlete’s foot and acne. It also helps to balance the skin and the digestive system, and is a natural deodorizer!

  • Bergamot can lift the mood, increase skin collagen and promote hair growth. It is also showing promise with chronic pain and fighting cancer. 

  • Fir fights free radicals and fungal skin conditions, and may help with arthritis, osteoarthritis, anxiety and depression. 

  • Ylang ylang can lower blood pressure and relax the mind and body. It also helps with skin rejuvenation and preventing signs of aging. Plus, it’s a natural insect repellent!

  • Clove can help relieve pain, fight bacteria and viral infections, protect the digestive system, and help skin heal. (It’s also been said to be an aphrodisiac!)

  • Tangerine can boost your mood and also offers anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiseptic properties.

Back to You

The science and research shows that the more you can remove the dangers of synthetic scents from your life, the more you can reduce your chances of some potentially serious health problems down the road. Now more than ever before, we as consumers need to read the ingredient labels on the products we choose to bring into our homes to know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into. When it comes to fragrances, stick with natural options, like essential oils, that smell great and won’t take a toll on your body and health. It’s time to feel good about your body and what you’re putting on it! 


Sign up to receive regular Toss the Toxins emails with educational information and tips from your friends at Bend Soap Company. 

More Posts to Enjoy

1 comment

Mary Boquist

I have been using essential oils and the thieves cleaner for about 3 years now. My niece got me started on them. I use my thieves to clean everything in my home, bathrooms, kitchen, mopping my floors.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Scroll down